NZ Trip report, 10-2008

Just returned to AK from a trip to New Zealand. Had a great time touring the country and checked out a few rivers with the packrafts. Thanks to Forrest for his previous post and ideas on places to go. Everything you’ve heard about New Zealand packraft potential is true. It is some of the best terrain imaginable for these boats: easy access with trails, lots of huts, and heaps of rivers. The whitewater boating is already world renowned, but most people use helicopters to get their heavy boats up the rivers. Some drainages are heli-free, leaving the creeks to packrafters only.

We did the Poulter river along the same route as Forrest. We found the hike to be ok, and the river was a nice straightforward run. Watch out for the electric fence across the river at head height when you start to see farm fields. We recommend taking a look at other options to hike in here. There are lots of huts in the valley, and many different potential variations possible. We were able to put-in at the Casey hut, a nice 14 bunk cabin. Another option: over the last couple years mountain biking has been allowed up this valley for a trial period. It could make for a great bike-rafting trip. The Poulter was rain swollen making it a quick float. Only one section of rapids was questionable with some large obvious boulders creating some obstacles and holes. Otherwise it was a nice uneventful float.

The Copland river was next. We had no information about it besides one photo from another Alaskan friend. This hike and float was incredible. The trail goes up from the West Coast on the south island through lush rainforest up to high alpine zones. It feels like a bizarre combination of Kauai and Alaska, with a beautiful turquoise river down the middle of the valley. We only hiked as far as the Welcome Flat hut (accomdation for 31 people), soaked in the hot springs and hiked and floated out the following day. The river has a steep canyon section between Architect creek and Welcome Flat that is solid class V or harder. It might be worth a look by an experienced and well prepared group. From our put-in at Architect creek below the canyon we encountered a bouldery, pool-drop character creek. We portaged 3 different rapids sections that looked class 3+. Without proper river clothing and rescue gear we didn’t feel like risking a swim in the harder sections. Scouting and portaging was very easy along the sides. There were no sweepers encountered. We floated about 10 km of river back to the car. This region gets enormous amounts of precip, and the river levels have large and frequent changes. Highly recommended trip for anyone headed down there. We finished off the day with a hike to a beach with penguins. The pictures should sum it up pretty well. Google Earth also has high resolution for this area. It’s good enough to pick out individual rapids.

We did another out and back float on the Rees river outside of Glenorchy. We hiked up to a hut above treeline and came back the next day. The creek was a bit too small between the hut and the swing bridge near the Park border. Below that we made good time floating back to the car in the shallow and mellow creek. The valley sights are beautiful with high snowy peaks above the cow pastures. After this float we realized that Forrest had probably floated the road section of the Rees, which looked a bit more exciting than what we did.

Also looked at the Hollyford river from the road. The road section looks quite nice, with a bit of class 4. From the trailhead it mellows out enough to accommodate jet boats. Could make for a really good trip.

If you’re looking for a really unique packraft trip check out the Waitomo caves on the North Island. Commercial tour companies do guided trips through some spectacular limestone cave systems with rivers running through. They call it “Black Water Rafting.” Not sure what is legal without a guide, but if you know where to go… The tours use tire innertubes, so a packraft would work ok, might even be a bit too big. Lots of glowworms and eels in the pitch black caves.


Kevin, Thanks for the report.

We are heading down to NZ in Dec.

The Copland was on my hit list, but like you I could find no info, as I think it may be off limits to heli-boating. So your report was really encouraging. It looks pretty and fun.

One thought was to start at Mt Cook area, over Copland Pass, down Copland to Karangura, up Karangura to Christmas Flat, over The Gladiator and into Landsborough drainage and out that to Haast. This would be a bit of a hard core trip, kind of like starting at Kings River and working over the Talkeetnas to float the Talkeetna through the Canyon.

But the Landsborough looks to be a classic packrafting trip as it’s a wilderness, closed to air access in its upper region, and a longish paddle with some NZ big water near its end.


One of the big problems with NZ (and to a lesser extent Australia) is actually finding information about things like this. I think there just aren’t enough people there (here) packrafting to provide the info. Last year Sheri told me she had sold something like 20 packrafts in Oz (and I have 2 of them) - given that she has a monopoly in packraft production in the world, you can see that not much info will flow back from Oz or NZ.

Roman’s plan of the Copland/Landsborough sounds great - a fantastic adventure. And “alaskabackcountry” has provided some further useful information about some of the river systems there. NZ appears to be an “oyster waiting to be opened” from the packrafting point of view.

My primary interest in NZ is fly-fishing, and packrafting is a means to an end - ie the rafts are a great way to get back down a river at the end of a day, and at the end of the week there, but I don’t need the excitement of the sort of rapids you seem to enjoy in Alaska.

If you’re searching for rafting adventures, then perhaps check out the kayaking/rafting sites in NZ. Most of the major rivers would be fun rafting in their mid to upper reaches, but once the gradient decreases, it would get dull.

I fish a tributary of the Karamea in Nelson regularly. The rafting is exciting enough for me, but I’ve read of rafting adventures in the Karamea proper, which may sound more your cup of tea. The Roaring Lion rapids, below the Roaring Lion Hut sound quite very “exciting” (and accessible by chopper). Having fished the Katamea above this, the rafting would in my mind be “dull”. I’ve fished the Mohikinui, just a little south of the Karamea - again, from a rafting point of view, rather easy cruising. A few good rapids, but better fishing than rafting. We’ve fished, and rafted, down in Fiordland, near Te Anau in the Glaisnock and Worsley R’s, both of which looked relatively steep valleys, but the rafting was generally rather easy, albeit with some more exciting rapids along the way.

Look at the rivers like the Dart/ Rees/ Shotover/upper Waimakariri/upper Rakaia/Hollyford etc. Look for big rivers, and steep gradients and check out the headwaters. Most of NZ is accessible by helicopter, although there are some “no fly zones”. The kayakers will probably be attuned to the best spots.

Going back to the Landsborough, although I’ve never been there, my reading of fly-fishing in the area suggests that it would be a “pleasant” float out, but not anything like “Ship Ck”.

As to Oztralia, if anyone wants some more exciting rafting here, we have a few options - the Murray Gates on the NSW/Vic border, below Tom Groggin;, The Geehi gorge, further downstream; the Mitta Mitta R near Omeo; the Tully R in North QLD ------------all these places have commercial rafting trips running them - if anyone wants some more info, perhaps email me at I won’t have packrafted these places, but I might have some other info that is useful.

Andrew Allan

Here’s something neat:

a couple guys in Fjordlands using Alpackas for lake/fjord boating

Also, Andrew, we will be in Melbourne in early January for a brief time, then back likely in February for a longer time. It would be great to meet you!


Only 20 ! Sheesh, I now feel kind of special.

I think the lack of info is also a great thing - a few hours on Google earth seems to throw a bevvy of locations, particularly in NZ. NZ’s terrain and rivers which actually carry water (unlike in much of Oz) seems to lend itself to this well. Coupled with a good tramping guide to NZ a whole new world opens up… Tassie looks very similar but the linking of catchments in the W/SW looks harder due to the umm, challenging vegetation ! I have zero Tassie bushwalking experience though so haven’t been able to work out how feasible this would be.

That Mulvany trip report is excellent ! I’d love to see map of the route, a true loop route ticks all the right boxes.

I have begun using my raft for Aussie Bass (Macquaria novemaculeata) fishing in the south of NSW. These fish love the small coastal creeks with deep holes and tannin-stasined waters, accessible usually only with portaging or very wet wading. The ease of acess is just amazing.